In March, 2016, I experienced one of the most exciting and memorable events in my life: the final round of the National Investment Banking Competition. Held in Canada, it was truly an international competition with candidates from the best business schools all over the world. From November 2015 to March 2016, my team members and I devoted our time and worked together for this competition. In this five-month period, I learned many things from the competition, and below are the three most important takeaways.
- First, calculation is not the key; concept is. This was a case competition related to valuation and merger and acquisition. In the first round, we focused on valuation of a company using different methods and it gave me the wrong idea that the competition was about getting the most accurate value of the company. So when it came to the final round, I treated the merger and acquisition case as a math problem and tried to solve for the “right” price to buy. But after I watched the presentations from the winner teams, I realized that the key to this competition is not calculation but concept. There wasn’t a right price to be determined; instead, a team could give any price as long as it was able to justify its decision with the acquirer and target’s business models, strategies and future plans.
- Second, teamwork is crucial. The competition was hard, but it seemed to be less so when there were good team members. I still want to thank the person who decided to put the four of us together. My team members, Shuo Xiong, Pengyu Xiong, Tianjing Huang, and I might be different in many ways but we have one common characteristic: we are all team players. We sacrificed our other plans so that we could be together at least once a week to discuss the case, tried our best to solve the problem we each were responsible for, and helped each other with problems related or not related to the case. After the competition, we are not only team members, but also good friends.
- Last but not least, presentations are important. In the final round, everything we did, including all the calculations, valuations, and justifications relied on a good and coherent presentation. Otherwise, judges were only listening to a decision with a bunch of numbers without clear logic. It was certainly challenging to put all the details in an eight-minute presentation. So everything a presenter says should mean something and everything on a PPT slide should carry necessary information. This is when presentation skills and practice show their value. After the competition, I have decided to take every possible chance to practice my presentation skills to improve each and every presentation I will give in the future.
My team did not win this competition, but when I look back, I gained something more important than a championship: a focus on concepts, an attitude of a team player, improvement of presentation skills and so much more. These I will treasure for the rest of my life.